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Trust in Your King December 18, 2016

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Isaiah 7:10-14

Circuit Meeting

December 8, 2016

 

Focus:  God sent a Savior for His people.

Function:  That the hearers rely on God alone for all their needs.

Structure:  Walking through the text.

 

Trust in Your King

 

It’s that time of year again.  And as the people crowd around you, you sit before a flaming, frosted delicacy.  Alright, so that’s a fancy way to say it’s your birthday.  And so you sit in front of the cake, close your eyes, make a wish, and attempt to blow out all those candles your family put on the cake.  And if you’re lucky, they didn’t use the trick candles this year.

Whether it’s making a wish before blowing out the candles, or wishing on a shooting star, or tossing a coin into a fountain, or breaking a wishbone, our culture has some traditions that come along with wishing.  But while it may be fun to do, is there really any point?  There’s no genie listening who magically grants your wishes.

But this wasn’t the case for Judah’s king.  Ahaz had the opportunity to ask God for anything he wanted as a sign that God is God, and could be trusted.  “As deep as Sheol,” or in other words, ask me to raise the dead, and I’ll do it.  “As high as heaven,” that is, ask me to send down angels upon you, and I’ll do it.

Our text this morning plops us right down into the midst of the Syro-Ephraimite Crisis in the year 735 BC.  King Rezin of Syria and King Pekah of Israel have decided to join up against Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria.  And Rezin and Pekah have come to Ahaz, the king of Judah, to request his aid in the battle.

Except, it wasn’t really a request.  They threatened to run a sword through his gut and put Tabeel on the throne in his place if he didn’t join with them.  But rather than join them, Ahaz had already reasoned in his own mind to side with Assyria.

It’s at this time that God sends the prophet Isaiah to speak with Ahaz.  As his land lays besieged, Isaiah comes before the king to talk about trust.  That’s really what the problem of Isaiah 7 is, a matter of faith, or the lack thereof in this case.  There’s a really fascinating connection here in chapter 7 and with chapter 36.  Isaiah is sent to meet Ahaz by the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field.  The only other time we see this field is when the king of Assyria sends his army against Ahaz’ son, Hezekiah.  Both kings under siege faced the same test.  Trust in God, not in armies.  One passed, the other failed.

According to the words of Psalm 2, used for the coronation of Judah’s kings, God declares Ahaz His son.  There’s a relationship here between God and the king of His people. A relationship that Ahaz quickly disposes of.  It’s clear from his conversation with Isaiah that Ahaz doesn’t have any faith in God.

And if it weren’t clear enough there, it certainly becomes crystal clear in 2 Kings 16:7, when Ahaz approaches Tiglath-Pileser and says, “I am your servant and your son.  Come up and rescue me from the hand of the king of Syria, and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.”  He even emptied the house of Yahweh of silver and gold and gave them to the Assyrian king as a sign of “good faith.”  In a manner of speaking, he disowned his birthright, as son of God, as king over His people.

So it’s no wonder when Isaiah presents Ahaz with the opportunity to put his trust in the Lord for deliverance, that Ahaz balks at the entire idea.  He plays it off, trying to act wise, but it’s all a con.  And God is not easily mocked.

The law is endless with this text.  When the enemy comes knocking, we are called upon to radically trust in Yahweh alone.  So the law is anything that takes our trust off of Christ.

We could focus on the election, or politics, but we’ve done that enough already.  We could focus on government in general, as people put their trust in rulers and armies to give them safety from their enemies.  Even to the point where we consider other Christians our enemies on the battlefield in the name of earthly kings.

But in our current culture, the most pressing thing for us to focus on is our desperate desire to control our own futures.  It’s not just planning, it’s obsessing.  Careers destroy families, as we put our trust in our income, our bank statements, our retirement savings, in just about anything to provide for our daily needs.

We put our trust in the doctors and the nurses, and the latest diet fads, and in essential oils, and all kinds of other things to provide us with basically a fountain of youth.  And then we worry constantly, and we panic at the slightest downturn in the economy or our own personal health.

Not unlike King Ahaz, we find it difficult to trust in God.  And to this failed king’s trust, God gave a sign.  We often hear the following prophecy as beautiful gospel.  But it wasn’t spoken that way.  This promise of Immanuel isn’t gospel at all, but law to the ears of an unrepentant king.

That indeed, a “virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  Too often we sell this short, too often we unfold this two-fold prophecy and make it to be only about Jesus.

The Hebrew word “almah” can mean virgin, maiden, or young woman.  Or, it can even mean a young married woman who has not yet given birth to children, such as in Joel 2:16 or Proverbs 30:19.  English doesn’t really have a term for that category, but the Hebrew word can mean that.

But if there is no birth in Ahaz’ time, it voids this prophecy.  This prophecy is spoken, this sign is to be given to King Ahaz.  And so a young woman, whose identity commentators and Concordia professors debate to no end, this young woman, marries, has a son, and they name him Immanuel.  And to Ahaz, this boy becomes an ongoing reminder, almost like circumcision to the Jews, a constant, visual reminder to the wicked king that God keeps His Word.

Personally, I think this boy is Ahaz’ son.  Whether Ahaz’ wife had been barren before and God is now opening her womb, or if he had a young wife and they simply hadn’t had kids yet.  That would make the boy Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, who becomes king after his father, and who passed the test at the Washer’s Field, by radically trusting in Yahweh alone.  Hezekiah’s name means “God is my strength,” which is extremely similar to Immanuel meaning “God is with us.”  A constant, present reminder to King Ahaz that God is God, whether he listens or not.

But rather than trusting in God as the true King of Judah, Ahaz thinks himself king, and takes the salvation of his people into his own hands.  And he rejects the sign of God, even as he sees it play out.  The kings he dreads, Rezin and Pekah, destroyed, their lands laid waste.  Assyria following through and sucking Ahaz’ kingdom dry.  Even as these things happen, the house of David, Ahaz, rejects the sign of Immanuel, of God with us.

When does the house of David finally repent of rejecting this sign?  Joseph.  It’s not until our gospel text from Matthew that the house of David finally receives the sign of Immanuel.  And as two-fold prophecy usually does, the latter fulfillment is far greater than the first.  Whatever that young woman was before, and the son she bore, the virgin Mary truly bears the Immanuel, God with us.

For many, these words are still law.  They still, as good Advent themes, and in anticipation of John the Baptist’s preaching, call us to repentance, to hear God’s Word and to repent of our sins.  For those who ignore the sign, these words are words of warning, they’re a message of impending doom.

But for those who hear and heed these words, this prophecy is good news.  This prophecy is of a baby boy, born of a virgin, God in the flesh, Immanuel, come down to earth to deliver His people.  And that’s precisely what the Christ-child does.

He lived among His people, among His creation.  He lived out the perfect life demanded of us, the perfect life we failed to live.  He then willingly sacrificed Himself, bled out on the cross, taking our sins upon Himself to give us life.  To give us forgiveness.  To save us.

To those who hear and heed this good news, Jesus is Immanuel, God in the flesh, a true King that will not bend or sway to the temptations and trials of the world.  A true king in whom we can place our trust and know that He will not fail us like an earthly king or a 401(k).

To bring in the Immanuel theme of Matthew’s writings, Jesus speaks this very promise to us.  In Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them.”  And again in Matthew 28:20, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Immanuel is a call to trust in God above all things.  But more than, it’s indeed a promise that He will keep.  That He will be with us always.

And indeed He is.  As we gather here together, two or three or a hundred, Christ is among us.  In Word, in Confession and Absolution, and in Sacrament.  The good news is yours, forgiveness is yours dear brothers.  Taste and see that the Lord is good.

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